Explosive growth in emerging markets has created a significant demand for companies to move workers around the globe to explore and seize new opportunities. At the same time, there has been an equally significant demand for companies to reduce their mobility costs. As a result, traditional employees are now more likely to be sent on short trips to fill specific business or customer needs, and project-based assignments are often more likely to be filled by a modern workforce that includes a variety of nonemployees.
A large majority of companies have seen an increase in these new types of assignments. Nevertheless, many still do not have formal guidelines for managing frequent crossborder travelers, and they admittedly fall short of properly educating their managers and mobile workers on the potential risks of these arrangements. Consequently, many vulnerabilities and misconceptions persist. Additionally, the growing prevalence of accidental expats has led to heightened scrutiny, incentivizing governments to crack down on business travelers and, with the assistance of technology, to become more adept at catching transgressions.
To paraphrase Pharaoh Ramses II, so it is written, so it shall be done.
In Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc., 586 U.S. __ (January 8, 2019), the first opinion by Justice Kavanaugh, a unanimous Supreme Court reiterated this principle of the Federal Arbitration Act. Specifically, the Court confirmed that when an arbitration agreement delegates to an arbitrator the question of whether the agreement applies to a particular dispute, courts have no power to decide this question, even if a court considers the arbitrability argument to be “wholly groundless.”
If you have employee headcount in Canada, be sure to catch up on the top 10 developments from 2018 . . .
- Legalization of recreational marijuana. Across Canada, the legalization of recreational cannabis has had a significant impact on employers, requiring them to implement changes to their workplace policies and procedures. The legalization of recreational marijuana has placed a spotlight on issues resulting from current technological limitations of testing for “current impairment”, and has required employers to adapt to the idea of a controlled substance that is legal for both recreational and medicinal use.
- Ontario introduces, and largely reverses, major workplace legislation reforms. Ontario’s Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017,introduced a wide range of changes to workplace legislation, including increases to minimum wage, paid vacation, and protected leave time, as well as new “equal pay for equal work” requirements. A majority of these changes came into force in 2018. However, on November 21, 2018, the new provincial government reversed most of these changes under Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open For Business Act, 2018.
- Alberta implements major reforms to workplace legislation. The Alberta legislature passed comprehensive amendments to its workplace legislation, most of which took effect on January 1, 2018. These changes were enacted through Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act; and Bill 30, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans, including enhanced leave and vacation entitlements, the implementation of a new administrative penalty system under the Employment Standards Code, the expansion of “card-based certification” for new unions, and other changes to legislation regarding occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation.
- Major changes to Quebec’s workplace legislation. In 2018, the National Assembly of Quebec made significant changes to the province’s workplace legislation under Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitate family–work balance. Changes include expanded leave entitlements, the inclusion of “sexual harassment” as a form of psychological harassment, the prohibition of any distinction based solely on hiring date in relation to pension plans or other employment benefits, and changes to directors and officers liability.
- British Columbia initiates workplace legislation reform. In June of 2018, BC’s Employment Standards Act Reform Project Committee issued recommendations for amendments to British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act, including enacting the right to refuse overtime in circumstances where overtime would conflict with certain family commitments, changes to overtime averaging requirements, and enhanced leave entitlements. On October 25, 2018, the BC government released the report of the Labour Relations Code Review Panel, recommending several amendments to the Labour Relations Code, including shortening the time between the filing of an application for certification and the certification vote, expanding remedial certifications, and expanding the statutory freeze period. It is very likely that these recommendations will give rise to substantial changes to BC’s workplace legislation in 2019.
- Ontario’s Pay Transparency Act, passed and put on hold. On May 7, 2018, Ontario’s former provincial government enacted Bill 3, An Act respecting transparency of pay in employment. The Pay Transparency Act was set to take effect on January 1, 2019, requiring Ontario employers to publish a salary rate or range in all publicly advertised job postings, prohibiting employers from asking candidates about their past compensation, and eventually requiring employers to post pay transparency reports online. However, Ontario’s new provincial government passed legislation on December 6, 2018, effectively placing the Pay Transparency Act on hold. It is likely that the Pay Transparency Act will be significantly amended or repealed by the new Ontario government in 2019.
- Ontario’s Police Record Checks Reform Act. As of November 1, 2018, Ontario legislation established three standard types of police records checks in Ontario, and set a procedural framework for executing the checks. This legislation is helpful in reducing the likelihood that unnecessary information will be disclosed to employers during the police record check process, and will reduce the confusion that has resulted from having different police record check processes administered in different regions across Ontario.
- Asset purchasers free to offer employment on new terms. On August 2, the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave to appeal the decision in Krishnamoorthy v Olympus Canada Inc, 2017 ONCA 873. In that case, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that, when a business’ assets are sold (as opposed to its shares), and the purchaser offers new employment to that business’s employees under different terms and conditions, the resulting employment contracts are generally enforceable, assuming they comply with employment standards legislation. In other words, new offers of employment in the context of an asset sale are fundamentally distinct from new offers of employment in the context of a share purchase, where the enforceability of amendments are often unenforceable for lack of “fresh consideration”.
- Two Ontario Court of Appeal cases give rise to further uncertainty regarding the enforceability of termination clauses. In Amberber v. IBM Canada Ltd., 2018 ONCA 571 and Nemeth v. Hatch Ltd., 2018 ONCA 7, the Ontario Court of Appeal sought to clarify and limit the contractual language threshold for ousting the common law entitlement to reasonable termination notice. These cases will strengthen the employer’s enforceability argument in many cases. However, it continues to be difficult to resolve apparent inconsistencies in the case law, and to predict what will occur in the litigation of each particular case.
- Increased legal scrutiny for benefits plans that make age-based distinctions at age 65. In Talos v. Grand Erie District School Board, 2018 HRTO 680, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario concluded that the applicant had been discriminated against on the basis of age as a result of the statutory exception that permitted the elimination of his benefits when he reached the age of 65. The HRTO therefore determined that Mr. Talos’ rights under s. 15(1) of the Charter had been infringed. Furthermore, the HRTO held that, although the financial viability of benefits plans was a pressing and substantial objective, the government’s decision to legislate the statutory exception was not justified because it was not necessary to preserve the financial viability of benefits plans. This case strongly suggests that the statutory exception will be the subject of further litigation, and that benefits plans that make age-based distinctions for employees after reaching the age of 65 will now be subject to serious legal scrutiny.
Many thanks to Jordan Kirkness and Massimo Orsini for this article.
(Thank you to our Baker McKenzie colleagues in Mexico for sharing this alert.)
As a result of a change in government leadership and recently signed laws and treaties, companies in Mexico now have an important “to do” for 2019: prepare to review any unions that are “on the books” and assess compliance in this new environment.
What are “White Unions”?
- White Unions in Mexico are usually employer-friendly unions that — due to current legislation deficiencies — can effectively bar entry of other unions who might otherwise attempt to gain a foothold in the workplace. They have little to no actual membership and do not actively represent workers. Historically, any union could petition for unionization without the need to prove the support of workers.
2018 was, without a doubt, another extraordinary year for US employers. The #MeToo movement continues to have a tremendous impact on the workplace. In addition, the thorny issue of how to manage contractor classifications in the gig economy continued to evolve and new DOJ enforcement activity is heightening concerns about no-poaching agreements and other antitrust activity. In 2019, employers will confront a host of new laws in 2019 on topics ranging from sick leave, lactation accommodation, salary history inquiries and much more.
Our 2018/2019 Digest is a fantastic resource to help you navigate the changes ahead and chart your course for 2019.
Click here to download the full Digest.
With thanks to our colleagues Lois Rodriquez (Baker McKenzie Madrid) and Nadège Dallais (Baker McKenzie Paris):
US companies expanding in Europe for the first time are often surprised to learn of the significant employee protections afforded to European employees (e.g. for example, employment at-will, for the most part, does not translate outside the US). An emerging “right to disconnect” is a new trend US multinationals should watch out for.
Spanish lawmakers recently passed a new act recognizing for the first time ever an employee’s right to digital disconnection. Under this new regulation, all companies with employees in Spain (regardless of headcount) must establish detailed internal policies regulating the right to disconnect after work hours. These policies must apply to all employees, even management and home-based workers.
Many viewed the highly anticipated coming into force of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25, 2018 as the “finish line” for the marathon efforts towards privacy compliance that took place in the months running up to this date. In reality, however, this date should be treated instead as a “starting line” from which to launch mandatory organizational protections for the personal data of individuals in the EU and elsewhere going forward.
Most companies with European operations have spent at least two years preparing for the GPDR. These often extensive ‐ and expensive ‐ efforts were typically led by companies’ legal, compliance, IT and security departments, and/or privacy offices, if any, and were supported by outside counsel and privacy consultants. The efforts often prioritized commercial or business data processed by the companies (through the websites, products, business contracts, etc.) instead of the data of employment candidates, employees, and other workers, such as temporary agency workers and independent contractors (collectively, “HR data”).
Click here to read the entire article (originally published by Bloomberg Law) which focuses on how companies should continue to focus on HR data compliance post-GDPR.
As we previously discussed here, the United States Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis was a clear win for employers that seek to avoid the expense and disruption of class litigation by resolving disputes individually through binding arbitration. As explained by the Supreme Court in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, “[i]n bilateral arbitration, parties forego the procedural rigor and appellate review of the courts in order to realize the benefits of private dispute resolution: lower costs, greater efficiency and speed, and the ability to choose expert adjudicators to resolve specialized disputes.”
For employers looking to take advantage of the benefits of individual arbitration, there are several drafting nuances to consider before rolling out or updating existing arbitration agreements.
For many companies, their compensation plan year coincides with the calendar year. So, as we approach the end of 2018, it’s a holly, jolly time to review, revise and plan for implementation of commission and bonus compensation plans for 2019. (And, for those companies on non-calendar year comp cycles, it’s a good time to start on that New Year’s resolution and get ahead.)
We are decking the halls with requests for commission and bonus compensation plan reviews to make it before the ball drops on December 31.